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Starting dates for thru-hikers

   Hi all! I've enjoyed the posts since I signed up a while back. 
It's nice to be amongst so many fellow AT aficionados. It seems like 
we have a good mix of enthusiasm and idealism tempered by experience 
and realism.
   Now I have a question (or two)... (Hey, you knew they were coming 
after I buttered ya'll up, right? ;-)) When are the thru-hiking 
hopefuls setting out this year? When do the thru-hikers from previous 
years think is the best time? I would like to avoid starting with a 
huge crowd, but with all the publicity the AT received last year, I 
don't know if it will be possible, especially since I can start no 
earlier than mid- to late-March for financial reasons -- gotta save 
up some cash! (Of course, the most important thing is just starting, 
be it with a crowd of 10 or 1,000.)
   Any suggestions/advice?

Thanks in advance,
Joe Castle
"Trailnameless Joe" (as of yet)
GA-->ME '96 (if I can just get started...)